Home Alone, re-released in Australian cinemas to celebrate its 30th anniversary this week, is a different story. Kevin McCallister, an eight-year-old boy (Macaulay Culkin), is punished by being forced to sleep up in the attic. He wishes that his family had never existed.

He wakes up the next morning to discover that he is the only person in his house. His family has left for Paris to celebrate Christmas.

In this film, there are no self-conscious teens struggling with coming-of-age issues or irresponsible adults learning late life lessons. Kevin is a super cute guy who pretends to be “man of house”.

False cuteness

Hughes knew that he was on to something with Culkin. The two had starred together in Uncle Buck a year earlier.

Culkin, who was only nine years old at the time of filming is an extroverted, strong actor with great comic timing. He also gives a lively and energetic performance. He can deliver his lines with emotion and thoughtfulness. He is the sole protagonist of the film. Kevin’s mischief — or his introspection — is the main plot device.

Where is the drama if Kevin “is home alone”? Hughes adds a second plot in which two burglars try to break into the home. The film then takes a macabre turn that is not typical of the genre.

Read more: Home alone feeling Scrooged? These Christmas movies deserve some love, actually.

What has been one of Hughes’ usual saccharine romps involving dysfunctional people learning to deal with family life becomes a sadistic and bruising experience akin to a PG-rated Texas Chainsaw Massacre .

The first two acts of the film are cutesy – Kevin wearing his father’s shoes, shopping in the supermarket and the famous aftershave sequence where he mimics Edvard Muench’s The Scream. Then Kevin unleashes the bloody tortures of an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie.

A dark psychology

Hughes is well-versed in cinema history. In Home Alone you can see Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin’s influence, as they set up sight joke one after the other. Here, they each become more violent.

Hughes’ comic writing abilities were demonstrated with John Candy and Steve Martin, in Planes, Trains and Automobiles, and again with Candy in Uncle Buck. Both films are full of slapstick. Their jokes are a result of adult characters’ stupidity. The damage is mostly to themselves and superficial.

Kevin’s tricks include BB gunshots in the face and genitals. He also uses flame throwers, metal scorching, and nails inserted through the feet.

Read more: How far can you go to lawfully protect yourself in a home invasion?

At the end of the film Kevin doesn’t need the pandering of his mother — he needs a serious psychological assessment.

It’s almost like watching a shorter film inside a larger one. Hughes began writing the script with the central idea that he uses in most of his films, namely: that despite the fact families fight and harass each other often, the love between family members is unbreakable.

Then he turned dark. It was really dark.

Disney is fun until someone gets injured. Disney

Home Alone is Hughes-esque for the first half hour, then Quentin Tarantino with his ultra-violence. It then lapses back into Hughes-with-extra-schmaltz for the last 20 minutes.

We need to talk

It’s hard to describe how a violent kid’s film is often ranked as one of the best Christmas movies ever. Hughes’ biggest success.

I don’t know what messages the child audience is getting from all this. It’s probably best to leave that to a professional psychologist. Culkin’s screen duality of cutesiness/darkness was evidently experienced in real life.

Disney: Don’t do this at home Disney

Culkin’s parents nurtured the “America’s darling” persona during his early career. Culkin took control of his finances in his teens and became independent. He later claimed that his father had been physically and psychologically abusive. Culkin’s career essentially disappeared after 1994’s Richie Rich. It was then the usual descent into alcohol and drugs. He is now 40 and says that he has substance-free. He describes himself as basically “retired”.

Home Alone spawned four sequels. But only Home Alone 2 (1992) features Culkin once again. It’s the same movie, but set in a new place. The torture scenes are still there.